The Grimm Variations – Episode 6 “ Pied Piper of Hamelin” Recap & Review

Pied Piper of Hamelin

Episode 6 of The Grimm Variations begins with Charlotte getting exposed to the tale of Pied Piper of Hamelin. She wonders about the children who left with the Pied Piper and comments that they must be happy.

The story revolves around a girl named Maria, who is bored of her life, living in the small orthodox and conservative village. She’s the granddaughter of the village head, who is known as the Grand Code. She doesn’t have any aspirations and just goes along with whatever her grandmother asks of her. Her facial expression is constantly stoic and devoid of any emotion.

However, she’s a genius, a prodigy. Her school teacher is especially involved in her case because if he doesn’t do anything, Mario would just drop out of school and marry someone. While the teacher is writing this, we understand that he’s romantically interested in her. At Maria’s house, she relays to her family that she is bored of her studies.

The Grand Code decides to get Maria to a village troublemaker, Lucas, much to her parent’s dismay. But her parents do not have any say in the matter because the only thing matters in the village is sustenance, and Grand Code makes that possible. All Grand Code wants is an able man who can work in the fields since Maria is to succeed her, it doesn’t matter who and how that man is. And Maria is fine with it because this is the world she has always lived in. She’s nonchalant about it.

At this time, a hooded figure collapses in the school teacher’s house. She asks him for water and a place to spend the night in but he calls her a beggar. She tells him that she’s a traveller and not a beggar and only wants some help. In return, she shows him a beautiful picture depicting caress of lovers. The teacher calls her filthy and immoral and turns her out of the house.  

The next day, the teacher asks Maria to stay back for “extra lessons” after seeing her come to school with Lucas. In his house, he tries to tell her the significance of marriage. Maria says that she plans to live how Grand Code lived, since that’s how always is. The teacher, in an attempt to change her mind, shows her the same picture that the traveller showed him. Maria takes a look at the picture and is completely changed.

Back at her house, Grand Code hosts a dinner for Lucas and his family. Everything is going smoothly when she comments about the couple having a child and Maria comments, “What will happen if I have no child. I wonder if I’d be butchered like” the chicken on the dinner table. When her grandmother asks her what she thinks of Lucas, she basically insults him but acknowledges that since there are no other men suitable for her, there’s nothing that she can do.

The next day, the Grand Code is made aware of a stranger in a hood. That assume that it’s a man because “there’s no way a woman would be walking around like that”. Meanwhile, in school, Maria asks for a personal after-school session from the school teacher. She asks him to show her the picture and he does. Then she asks if she can borrow it, but the school teacher refuses.

It is, then, she threatens the school teacher that she might tell the Grand Code about it. And so, the teacher agrees to tell her everything if she marries him. Maria agrees since he doesn’t care who she’s marrying. She says that she could perhaps change Grand Code’s mind and the teacher tells her about the stranger. She’s extremely interested in the stranger and promises to marry him in exchange for him to let her meet the stranger.

After she leaves, we find that the teacher has imprisoned the stranger, after almost killing her. He has also taken all her belonging and asks for more. The stranger gives him her flute and tells him that it can stir emotions into people. He hits her but asks her to play it “tomorrow”. The next day, Maria visits the teacher again and shares that it might be impossible for her to marry him but offers herself for a night. They sleep together only to find that the stranger has escaped from the teacher’s prison. Maria feels that the teacher has broken his promise and prepares to leave. The teacher mentions that she cannot when they are “far too involved”. Maria smirks and kicks him brutally. She confesses how everything he taught her was “boring and stupid” and leaves.

Back in her home, Grand Code decides to sell her to the highest bidder since she’s beautiful and intelligent. At this moment, a strong music engulfs the village.  Maria flees from her room towards the sound. The teacher comes to Maria’s house and pins all the blame onto the stranger. He says that it’s because of the music that Maria became “possessed”.

As Maria listens to the music, she starts becoming colourful and happy. She’s flying. She listens to the stranger and confesses that she understands why Grand Code forbit beautiful things and music because they “light a fire in your heart. It’s because they disturb the order that she aims to protect…they can change you.” She says that she wants to experience it all. The travelled removes her hood to release the universe. Amidst screams of the teacher telling Maria that she cannot leave the village, the traveller tells her that “It’s not something that anyone can force you to do”. The traveller than hugs Maria.

Mario transforms into the traveller with red hair and a green cape. She’s now a traveller too, living in the bustling city and narrates her tale to a younger girl. And the little girl? She’s impressed and inspired.

The Episode Review

This episode was one of the best wacky feminist retellings of a fairy tale I have ever come across. Rather than being a simple tale, it’s ambitious and symbolic, with a hard-hitting, anti-patriarchy moral. Maria’s transgression is almost like Eve’s first sin, but this chapter emphasises that although a sin, considered so by regressive traditions and patriarchal social order, it is also the first act of female resistance and defiance.

A brilliantly adapted chapter where a female traveller rescues another in the essence of sisterhood and the chain of liberation and transformation goes on with every such tale that Maria narrates to a younger generation.

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